Charleston Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
If you or someone close to you gets hurt in a drunk driving accident, the aftermath can feel overwhelming. It’s common to feel stressed and uncertain while grappling with injuries, medical bills, and an uncertain future. At times like this, you need an ally to help you along the challenging path to recovery. That’s where Joe Cunningham Law comes in.
Based in Charleston and serving accident victims throughout South Carolina, Joe Cunningham is committed to providing top-tier legal representation to those in need. With experience, determination, and a “people-first” approach honed by his years as a U.S. Congressman, Joe is dedicated to defending your interests and demanding meaningful results on your behalf.
Ready to take the first step toward recovery? Reach out to Joe today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a Charleston drunk driving/DUI accident injury attorney.
What Are South Carolina’s Laws on Drunk Driving?
If you got hurt in a South Carolina traffic accident with a drunk driver, any of the following state laws could be relevant to your injury case:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – It’s illegal to drive in South Carolina while materially impaired by alcohol, regardless of blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A BAC of 0.08 percent or higher indicates implied intoxication. If someone’s BAC is at least 0.05 percent but less than 0.08 percent, it may be used to infer impairment along with other evidence.
- Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration (Illegal Per Se) – Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher is prohibited. Conviction under this “per se” DUI statute carries the same penalties as a typical DUI conviction, even if a driver is not noticeably impaired otherwise.
- Felony Driving Under the Influence – If someone drives under the influence and causes great bodily injury or death to someone else (felony DUI), they face specific penalties. For great bodily injury, the penalties include a mandatory fine of up to $10,100 and 30 days to 15 years in jail. For death, the penalties include a mandatory fine of up to $25,100 and up to 25 years in jail.
- Implied Consent – By driving in South Carolina, you implicitly consent to breath, blood, or urine testing for the presence of alcohol or drugs if suspected of a violation. Refusal to undergo testing results in an automatic suspension of driving privileges for those 21 or older.
- Open Container Laws – South Carolina law prohibits having an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle unless it is in the trunk or luggage compartment. Conviction for this violation results in a fine of up to $100 or imprisonment for up to 30 days.
What Are Common Injuries Caused in Drunk Driving Accidents?
A DUI accident can lead to a wide range of injuries that vary from minor to severe, depending on the circumstances. Here are some of the most common examples:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Fractured bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Lacerations and bruising
- Neck and back injuries
- Loss of limb
- Soft tissue injuries
- Psychological trauma
- Eye injuries
- Hearing loss
- Facial fractures
- Dental injuries
- Crush injuries
- Nerve damage
- Joint injuries
How Is Liability Determined for a Drunk Driving Crash in South Carolina?
Proving liability in a DUI accident case requires a collection of evidence that demonstrates the other party’s intoxication or other wrongdoing. Common types of evidence an attorney might gather and use in such cases include the following:
- Police crash reports
- Breathalyzer or blood test results
- Witness testimonies
- Surveillance or dashcam footage
- Photos from the accident scene
- Medical records and doctor’s reports
- The drunk driver’s driving history
- Expert testimonies
- The other driver’s statements or admissions
- Physical evidence from the crash scene
- Cell phone records
- Bar, restaurant, or store receipts
- Data from the drunk driver’s social media accounts
- Physical damage to vehicles involved
- Inconsistent statements from the other driver
- Weather and road condition reports
- Field sobriety test results
Can Bars, Restaurants, Shops, and Social Hosts Face Liability for a Drunk Driving Accident?
Yes. Bars, restaurants, stores, and social hosts can face liability for drunk driving accidents in South Carolina. Unlike other states, South Carolina does not have specific “dram shop liability” or “social host liability” laws, which hold businesses and individuals liable for serving alcohol to those who harm others. However, there are laws prohibiting parties from serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons.
South Carolina courts have held that violating these types of laws by selling or serving alcohol to clearly impaired persons can be evidence of negligence in a civil lawsuit. This application of the law is commonly referred to as “negligence per se.”
Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that applies when a party violates a law designed to protect others, and that violation results in harm. So, if a South Carolina dram shop or social host overserves someone and this behavior contributes to a DUI accident, injured parties could argue negligence per se in court.
Remember that each case is unique, and liability is not always clear-cut, especially for DUI accidents. If you’re involved in such a situation, it’s best to consult a lawyer who has significant knowledge of and experience with South Carolina’s drunk driving/DUI accident laws.
What Compensation Can I Pursue in a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?
When you get hurt in a DUI accident, the law allows you to seek compensation for a wide range of losses you might have suffered as a result, such as:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical costs
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disability and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage costs
Can I Recover Compensation Even If the Drunk Driver Isn’t Charged?
Yes. You can recover compensation even if the drunk driver isn’t formally convicted or even charged in criminal court. This is because civil lawsuits for personal injuries, such as those arising from DUI accidents, operate separately from criminal proceedings.
In a criminal case, the state must prove the defendant’s (the drunk driver) guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a very high standard. The purpose of a criminal case is to determine guilt and assign punishment for violations of criminal law.
In contrast, a civil case for personal injury is about holding a defendant financially accountable for the harm they caused. The standard of proof for these cases is a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning it’s more likely than not that the defendant’s bad behavior contributed to your injuries.
So, even if the drunk driver is not charged or convicted in a criminal trial, you could still file a successful civil lawsuit and recover money for your losses. It’s wise to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through the process and understands how to maximize your potential compensation.
How Long Do I Have to File a Drunk Driving Accident Lawsuit in South Carolina?
South Carolina law provides a three-year filing window for personal injury lawsuits, including drunk driving accident lawsuits. This means you have three years from the date of the accident to sue the responsible party or parties for your injuries and related losses.
If you fail to file your lawsuit within this three-year period, you could lose your right to pursue legal action entirely. This is because the court will likely dismiss your case as time-barred unless a specific exception applies.
It is critical to keep track of these deadlines, which is where a lawyer can be immensely helpful. An experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney will be familiar with all the rules that apply to your case, as well as any potential exceptions that could extend the filing deadline.
How a Charleston, SC, Lawyer Can Help People Injured by Drunk Drivers
If you’ve been injured by a drunk driver in a South Carolina auto accident, the prospect of dealing with the legal system can be daunting. From confusing filing requirements to difficult insurance companies, there are numerous challenges that could affect your claim. That’s where the help of a skilled Charleston, SC, drunk driving accident injury lawyer comes in.
A South Carolina injury attorney with experience in drunk driving accidents can help you by:
- Conducting an independent investigation of the DUI accident
- Gathering and analyzing evidence from the accident scene
- Advising you on your legal rights and options
- Filing all necessary paperwork and legal documents on time
- Communicating with insurance companies on your behalf
- Consulting medical experts to understand your injuries
- Identifying liable parties and potential sources of compensation
- Identifying third parties, such as bars or clubs, that could be liable
- Determining the full extent of your losses, including future medical expenses
- Consulting financial experts to estimate potential future income losses
- Preserving helpful evidence, like breathalyzer or other BAC test results
- Collaborating with accident reconstruction experts, if needed
- Negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company
- Advocating for you in court if your case goes to trial
- Challenging any violation of your rights during the legal process
- Addressing your questions and concerns every step of the way
Contact an Experienced Charleston, SC, Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Today
As a drunk driving accident victim, you’ve been through enough. Now, it’s time to let someone else handle the fight for you. Put Joe Cunningham’s experience and determination to work for you. Call today for a free consultation with a drunk driving accident injury attorney in Charleston, SC.